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act of concurrence is involved or implied; nothing is done, or left undone, which would have not been equally so if his attendance were withdrawn. Under such circumstances, the necessity of preserving the purity of worship, or of avoiding an active co-operation in what we deem sinful or erroneous (the only justifiable ground of separation), has no place. The objection to his admission is founded solely on a disapprobation of a particular practice considered, not as it affects us, since no part of our religious practice is influenced by it, but in relation to its intrinsic demerits.
Division among Christians, especially when it proceeds to a breach of communion, is so fraught with scandal, and so utterly repugnant to the genius of the gospel, that the suffrages of the whole Christian world have concurred in regarding it as an evil on no occasion to be incurred, but for the avoidance of a greater-the violation of conscience. Whenever it becomes impossible to continue in a religious community without concurring in practices and sanctioning abuses which the word of God condemns, a secession is justified by the apocalyptic voice, "Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues." On this principle, the conduct of the Reformers in separating from the Roman hierarchy admits of an ample vindication: in consequence of the introduction of superstitious rites and ceremonies, it became impracticable to continue in her communion without partaking of her sins; and for a similar reason the nonconformists seceded from the Church of England, where ceremonies were enforced, and an ecclesiastical polity established, incompatible, as they conceived, with the purity and simplicity of the Christian institute. In each of these cases, the blame of schism did not attach to the separatists, but to that spirit of imposition which rendered such a measure requisite. In each instance, it was an act of self-preservation, rendered unavoidable by the highest necessity, that of declining to concur in practices at which their conscience revolted. But what similarity to this is discernible in the conduct of the advocates of strict communion? They are not engaged in preserving their own liberty, but in an attack on the liberty of others: their object is not to preserve the worship in which they join pure from contamination; but to sit in judgment on the consciences of their brethren, and to deny them the privileges of the visible church on account of a difference of opinion, which is neither imposed on themselves nor deemed fundamental. They propose to build a church, upon the principle of an absolute exclusion of a multitude of societies, which they must either acknowledge to be true churches, or be convicted, as we have seen, of the greatest absurdity, while for a conduct so monstrous and unnatural, they are precluded from the plea of necessity, because no attempt is made by Pedobaptists to modify their worship, or to control the most enlarged exercise of private judgment. Upon the principle for which I am contending, they are not called to renounce their peculiar tenets on the subject of baptism, nor to express their approbation of a contrary practice; but simply not to sever themselves from the body of Christ, nor refuse to unite with his church.
However familiar the spectacle of Christian societies who have no fellowship or intercourse with each other has become, he who consults the New Testament will instantly perceive that nothing more repugnant to the dictates of inspiration, or to the practice of the first and purest age, can be conceived. When we turn our eyes to the primitive times, we behold one church of Christ, and one only, in which, when new assemblies of Christians arose, they were considered, not as multiplying, but diffusing it; not as destroying its unity, or impairing its harmony, but being fitly compacted together on the same foundation, as a mere accession to the beauty and grandeur of the whole. The spouse of Christ, like a prolific mother, exulted in her numerous offspring, who were all equally cherished in her bosom, and grew up at her side. As the necessity of departing from these maxims, or of appearing to depart from them at least by forming separate societies, arose entirely from that spirit of ecclesiastical tyranny and superstition which was gradually developed, so a similar measure is justifiable as far as that necessity extends, and no further. In the case of strict communion, it has no place whatever. In that case it is not a defensive but an offensive measure; it is not an assertion of Christian liberty by resisting encroachment, it is itself a violent encroachment on the freedom of others; not an effort to preserve our own worship pure, but to enforce a conformity to our views, in a point acknowledged not essential to salvation. That the unity of the church cannot be maintained upon those principles, that if every error is to be opposed, not by mild remonstrance and scriptural argument, but by making it the pretext of a breach of communion, nothing but a series of animosities and divisions can ensue, the experience of past ages has rendered sufficiently evident. If amid the infinite diversity of opinions, each society deems it necessary to render its own peculiarities the basis of union, as though the design of Christians in forming themselves into a church were, not to exhibit the great principles of the gospel, but to give publicity and effect to party distinctions, all hope of restoring Christian harmony and unanimity must be abandoned. When churches are thus constituted, instead of enlarging the sphere of Christian charity, they become so many hostile confederacies.
If it be once admitted that a body of men associating for Christian worship have a right to enact, as terms of communion, something more than is included in the terms of salvation, the question suggested by St. Paul-"Is Christ divided?" is utterly futile: what he considered as a solecism is reduced to practice, and established by law. How is it possible to attain or preserve unanimity in the absence of an intelligible standard? and when we feel ourselves at liberty to depart from a Divine precedent, and to affect a greater nicety and scrupulosity in the separation of the precious and the vile, than the Searcher of hearts; when we follow the guidance of private partialities and predilections, without pretending to regulate our conduct by the pattern of our great Master; who is at a loss to perceive the absolute impossibility of preserving "the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace?" Of what is essential to salvation it is not difficult to judge: the quiet of the conscience requires that the information on this subject should be clear and precise;
whatever is beyond is involved in comparative obscurity, and subject to doubtful disputation.
There are certain propositions which produce on a mind free from prejudice such instantaneous conviction as scarcely to admit of formal proof. Of this nature is the following position, that it is presumptuous to aspire to a greater purity and strictness in selecting the materials of a church than are observed by its Divine Founder; and those whom he forms and actuates by his Spirit, and admits to communion with himself, are sufficiently qualified for the communion of mortals. What can be alleged in contradiction to a truth so indubitable and so obvious? Nothing but a futile distinction (futile in relation to the present subject) between the moral and the positive parts of Christianity. We are told, again and again, that the Lord's Supper is a positive and arbitrary institution, in consequence of which, the right to it is not to be judged of by moral considerations and general reasonings, but by express prescription and command.
Willing to meet objectors on their own ground, we request then to point us to the passage in the code of inspiration where unbaptized Christians are forbidden to participate; and all the answer we receive consists merely of those inferences and arguments from analogy against which they protest: so that our opponents, unsupported by the letter of Scripture, are obliged to have recourse to general reasoning, not less than ourselves, however lame and defective that reasoning may be.
When we urge them with the fact that all genuine Christians are received by Christ, and that his conduct in this instance is proposed as a pattern for our imitation, they are compelled to shift their ground; and although it is evident to every one who reflects that we mean to assert the obligation of adhering to that example only as far as it is known, they adduce the instance of immoral professors, who, though received, as they contend, by Christ, are justly rejected by the church. But how, we ask, are we to ascertain the fact that such persons are accepted of Christ, till they give proof of their repentance? Is it precisely the same thing to neglect a known rule of action, as to cease to follow it, when it is involved in hopeless obscurity? Admitting, for argument's sake, that disorderly livers have uninterrupted union with the Saviour, it is impossible that we should know it while they continue impenitent, and therefore, on such occasions, it ceases to be a rule. But rejecting Pedobaptists in the mass, they reject a numerous class of Christians whom they know and acknowledge to be the temples of the Holy Ghost. If the two cases are parallel, we acknowledge the justice of the conclusion; if not, what more futile and absurd? Let it be remembered, however, that all this quibbling and tergiversation are employed to get rid of an apostolic canon, and that they bear upon our principles in no other sense than as they tend to nullify or impair the force of an inspired maxim. If we are in error, we deem it no small felicity to err in such company.
Before I close this section, I must be permitted to remark an inconsistency in the conduct of our opponents connected with this part of the subject which has often excited my surprise. Disclaiming, as they
do, all communion with Pedobaptists, and refusing to acknowledge them as a legitimate part of the Christian church, we should naturally expect they would shun every approach to such a recognition of them with peculiar care in devotional exercises, in solemn addresses to the Deity. Nothing, on the contrary, is more common than the interchange of religious services between Baptists and Independents, in which the Pedobaptist minister is solemnly recommended to the Supreme Being as the pastor of the church, and his blessing earnestly implored on the relation they stand in to each other; nor is it unusual for a Baptist to officiate at the ordination of an Independent minister, by delivering a charge, or inculcating the duties of the people, in a discourse appropriated to the occasion. They feel no objection to have communion with Pedobaptists in prayer and praise, the most solemn of all acts of worship, even on an occasion immediately connected with the recognition of a religious society; but no sooner does the idea of the Eucharist occur, than it operates like a spell, and all this language is changed, and these sentiments vanish. It is surely amusing to behold a person solemnly inculcating the reciprocal duties of a relation which, on his principles, has no existence; and interceding expressly in behalf of a pastor and a church, when, if we credit his representations at other times, that church is illegitimate, and the title of pastor consequently a mere usurpation. Although it must be acknowledged that the approach of Pedobaptists to the sacred table is, on their principles, a presumptuous intrusion, it is seldom that the advocates of strict communion feel any scruple in attempting, by devotional exercises, to prepare the mind for the right performance of what they are accustomed to stigmatize as radically wrong. For my part, I am utterly at a loss to reconcile these discrepancies. Is it that they consider less attention to truth, a less exact correspondence between the language and the sentiments, requisite in addressing the Deity than in discoursing with their fellow-mortals? Or is it not more candid to suppose that devotion elevates them to a higher region, where they breathe a freer air, and look down upon the petty subtleties of a thorny, disputatious theology with a just and sovereign contempt ?
The Exclusion of Pedobaptists from the Lord's Table considered as a
The refusal of the Eucharist to a professor of Christianity can be justified only on the ground of his supposed criminality, of his embracing heretical sentiments, or living a vicious life. As the sentence of exclusion is the severest the church can inflict, and no punishment just but in proportion to the degree of preceding delinquency, it follows of course that he who incurs the total privation of church privileges must be considered eminently in the light of an offender. When the incestuous person was separated from the church at Corinth, it was VOL. I.-Y
regarded by St. Paul as a punishment, and that of no ordinary magnitude :-"Sufficient," said he, “is this punishment, which was inflicted of many." Nor is there any difference with respect to the present inquiry, between the refusal of a candidate and the expulsion of a member; since nothing will justify the former of these measures which might not be equally alleged in vindication of the latter. Both amount to a declaration of the parties being unworthy to communicate. The language held by our opponents is sufficiently decisive on this head: It is not every one," says Mr. Booth, "that is received of Jesus Christ who is entitled to communion at his table; but such, and such only, as revere his authority, submit to his ordinances, and obey the laws of his house." Hence, to be consistent with themselves, they must impute to Pedobaptists universally a degree of delinquency equal to that which attaches to the most flagrant breaches of immorality; and deem them equally guilty in the sight of God with those unjust persons, idolaters, revellers, and extortioners, who are declared incapable of entering into the kingdom of heaven. For if the guilt imputed in this instance is acknowledged to be of a totally different order from that which belongs to the openly vicious and profane, how come they to be included in the same sentence? and where is the equity of animadverting upon unequal faults with equal severity?
To be consistent, also, they must invariably refuse to tolerate every species of imperfection in their members, which in their judgment is equally criminal with the Pedobaptist error: but how far they are from maintaining this impartiality is too obvious to admit of a question. In churches whose discipline is the most rigid, it will not be denied that many are tolerated who are chargeable with conduct more offensive in the sight of God than a misconception of the nature of a positive institute; nor will they assert that a Brainerd, a Doddridge, or a Leighton had more to answer for at the supreme tribunal on the score of infant baptism, than the most doubtful of those imperfect Christians whom they retain without scruple in their communion. Let them remember, too, that this reasoning proceeds not on the principle of the innocence of error in general, or of infant-sprinkling in particular; but, on the contrary, that it takes for granted that some degree of blame attaches to a neglect, though involuntary, of a positive precept; we wish only to be informed on what principle of equity it is proposed in the infliction of ecclesiastical censures, to equalize things which are not equal.
From those injunctions of St. Paul which have already been distinctly noticed, where he enforces the duty of reciprocal toleration, we find him insisting on certain circumstances adapted to diminish the moral estimate of the errors in question, and to show that they involved a very inconsiderable portion of blame, compared to that which the zealots, on either side, were disposed to impute. Such is the statement of their not being fundamental, of the possibility of their being held with a pure conscience, and the certainty that both parties were equally
* Apology, p. 107.